For every follower of Britpop who took their place on either side of the river when it came to the perceived chart duel waged by Blur and Oasis, there’s a, usually more detached but dedicated, narrow-eyed observer of that period who affirms that Suede were the real, only, deal.
For that fan, frontman Brett Anderson, in his floor-length leather coat and Ferry-esque bangs, with his broken heart and yearning chords, may have been the ultimate icon of that period, and also its antidote to the more anodyne aspects of the soundtrack of Blair’s first years.
Anderson is more prosaic…
"Most of Britpop was crap," he tells HuffPost UK. "Was it that good? It wasn’t exactly the Kinks and the Beatles, was it? A lot of shit. Come on, most of it was f***ing awful. Sorry, we don’t have a rose-tinted view of Britpop. I’m not just saying that for effect.
Suede are back together after a decade
"Suede's Britain wasn't about Camden High Street. I always hated the Little Britain thing, such a crass misinterpretation of what it was supposed to be about. But that always happens with youth movements - look at your postcard punks - as soon as they find a voice, they got commodified and sanitised, turned into money. I just wanted to sing in my own voice, or what I thought was my own voice."
His bandmate, Mat Osman, agrees: “We were trying to do something universal, writing about our own ordinary lives, and instead it went all Union-Jacky.”
Is Simon Cowell more honest, then, with his blatant efforts? “It’s honest and it’s sh*t. I don’t know whether that’s really an advantage. It’s f***ing awful, but it’s honestly awful,” is Anderson’s summary.
The reason we are looking back, temporarily, is because it’s 2013, and Suede are back with a new album – ‘Bloodsports’ – and a new attitude. “This was the first album we made where, if it wasn’t any good, we just wouldn’t do it,” says Osman.
Inevitably, talk of reformation must include talk of the initial split, and Anderson, whose lyrics resemble those of Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker in their suburban poetry – old lines like 'watch the early morning sun, drip like blood from the day’ still tingle – is typically forthright about what went wrong a decade ago as they released their fifth studio album…
"Looking back on it, we should have split up and we probably wanted to subconsciously, but didn’t have the guts to do it, and making a bad record, was almost like when you’re with someone, and the only way you can split up with them is to behave so badly that they split up with you.”
But now, 10 years later and with a handful of reunion gigs behind them, Anderson and Osman are convinced the chemistry between the band mates is as good, and productive, as ever. Like slipping on a comfy pair of slippers?
“I’m sure there’s an analogy that’s more flattering than that,” Anderson winces. “But, yes, that’s what a band is, the point of it is the chemistry of it, which is the strength and the weakness.
“It’s not like learning to ride a bicycle, you do have to relearn it,” he describes. “One of the reasons we didn’t tell anyone we were making a record was because we didn’t know if it was going to be any good.
“Trying to find something that was a Suede record (something he describes, under duress, as “something dramatic, passionate, with extremes to it”) and did the things we did do well, without it being a self-parody. Can you parody yourself?”
Fortunately, ‘Bloodsports’ has passed their own strict examination, something they admit isn’t true for all their back-catalogue…
“We’re quite honest with ourselves, we’ve made records in the past that were failures, regardless of how many they sold, they’re not good records,” says Anderson, crisply.
“You have to inspire people, to do that, you can’t not care about it. That’s what went wrong with the last Suede record, we just didn’t care enough any more.
“The last Suede album wasn’t a very good record. The second to last Suede album was half a good record. Not that I think everything we’ve ever done is amazing, but the first three albums were pretty good, this album, we’re so close to it, it’s difficult to judge, but we’ve had a good filter with this record.”
This may be just as well because they agree that neither of them is equipped for any other kind of life…
“I have to be a musician, I can’t do anything else,” admits Anderson. “It’s like being an adult baby, it’s a bit sad and absolutely terrifying.”
“It’s actually worse, because you’ve been mollycoddled,” adds Osman. “It’s actually worse than just sitting around in a room for 25 years. You’re more useless.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum to all the coddling, Osman describes the cold shadow of shallowness that descends once a band has split up, and stopped feeding the machine.
"I knew how shallow the music business was, but there were certain people I’d spoken to twice a week for the last 15 years, who I never heard from again. And that level, you could tell someone that, but until it happens and you see someone on the street, and they blank you, you don’t physically understand it, and there’s lots of stuff like that."
Despite this, they’re back – there’s no talk yet of a tour, but it seems unlikely they’ll be able to resist, after all, as Osman describes it, “if you’re a musician, that’s what you do.”
And Anderson agrees… “I heartily endorse that. If I had a signet ring and some sealing wax, I’d be using it.”
Suede's album 'Bloodsports' is released on 18 March. Watch the video below for 'It Starts and Ends With You'...
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